Saturday, March 14, 2015

19: The Skeleton Coast


Once the train rounded Roaring Cape, Alan felt almost dizzy when he looked down. The tracks seemed to cling about halfway up a very steep slope, chewed and clawed at by the huge waves crashing below.

"See, what did I tell you?" Jeremy piped in, "The waves are big today, and they are usually the biggest on this stretch of coast...sometimes 30 meters or more! We'll come to a place called the Oceanyard where the surf churns and erupts in all kinds of wild configurations. Sometimes they have to close this line because of rocks on the tracks, tossed up by the waves."

An early postal stamp commemorating New Island Railways' engineering feats
along the Skeleton Coast.

Just then the train slowed down, but kept a steady pace along the winding stretch of track. As it approached a long tunnel ahead, beneath Red Point, Alan saw some unusually large waves ahead that looked high enough to reach the train. And then, whump! A good size breaker hit the seawall next to their car and splashed against the windows, momentarily obliterating everything. He cringed as he heard bits of stone clattering against the glass. After the splash, more swells that were just plain huge lined up one after another, heading for the train...

Then they were in the tunnel, just in time!

Alan was thrilled by the ocean's energy, but Jeremy looked a bit bleached. "Well, I think that's over," Alan said. As they emerged from the tunnel, the waves were less ferocious, and the train soon pulled into a settlement called Brandonbeach, the first town since Ocean Grove.

After a slowdown to exchange mail bags, the train continued, and as it picked up speed, Alan noticed a few smaller settlements tucked among trees by a creek. "Oh, how I'd love to hike up there and explore those villages," he told Jeremy, who yet looked pale and had said nothing more since the wave incident.

"Um, are you okay?" asked Alan. Jeremy nodded slightly, keeping his eyes closed.